If you follow pop music—or especially, perhaps, the business of pop music—you surely know Maggie Rogers’ story. Early this year, while a student at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Rogers attended a songwriting and production masterclass with Pharrell. Like all the participants, she presented a song for the music mogul’s critique—in her case, a quickly-tracked electro-folk tune called “Alaska,” which she’d apparently cobbled together at the last minute, and which she noted still needed “a couple more hours of mixing and mastering.”
In video outtakes from the event, you can see surprise and endearment progressively build across Pharrell’s face as he listens, while Rogers bobs her head to the beat of the song, sometimes with eyes shut, sometimes looking with nervous patience at the superstar in her midst. Listening to her work.
In the ensuing months Pharrell’s response has gone viral—as has, to put it modestly, “Alaska.” Back in February, after the song had played, Pharrell struggled, in halting, deliberate speech, to describe the appeal of Rogers’ track (a hesitation that, in itself, might be ample evidence of the song’s genius).
And ultimately, his description of Rogers’ achievement expressed, in miniature, that ineffable something that marks great art: That it makes us feel unlike anything else, and it does so in terms we’ve never experienced before.
“I have zero notes for that,” an excited Pharrell tells Rogers. “It’s singular.” As artists, he says, “you have to be willing to seek, and you have to be willing to be frank, in your choices. I’ve never heard anyone who sounds like you before…And that’s a drug for me.”
One wonders, as a respectful giddiness crept across Rogers’ face, whether she realized what had just happened.
Now, some months later, a video for “Alaska” has been viewed a gazillion times; Rogers has graduated from school, traveled to Europe and back, and embarked on a career with major-label backing. A raft of critical music outlets have registered their esteem for her songwriting, and Chelsea Clinton has issued her own admiration for the nascent artist.
Today, Rogers—once nicknamed “the banjo girl” at NYU for her rural Maryland upbringing—releases a second song, “Dog Years,” as a teaser for an upcoming EP, to be released on Capitol in early 2017. We provide it below, along with “Alaska” and a clip documenting that fateful moment in February when Pharrell brought the young artist into the world’s orbit. Enjoy.